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The Karting Classroom - Let's Discuss Penalties

Updated: Jun 11, 2023

Congratulations! If you're reading this, it means you've made it into the Race League. That's an achievement worth celebrating! As you take this exciting step forward, we'll be moving on to discuss a new aspect of racing - penalties.


As a newcomer to the league, it's inevitable that you'll face penalties during race meetings. This is all part of the learning process, and you will make mistakes. It's important to understand that when you first join the league, other racers will likely be quicker than you, you will be at the very back on multiple occasions. They've been there longer, they've honed their skills, and they know how to race. But don't let this intimidate you.


Now, what's the best approach when you're trailing behind or if you've just been penalised? Have a meltdown? Throw your equipment at mum and dad? Stomp all the way back to the car? (Yup, I'm guilty of that one). It might seem funny, and yes, I've seen a helmet or two flying in parents' directions (not in my parents direction as there is a high chance of me being left at the track to walk home if I did and its a LONG walk!), but there's a better way to handle it. Keep your eyes on the track, learn from your mistakes, and watch the top racers - they've got some tricks you can learn!


Let's start with understanding one of the most significant and often misunderstood penalties in the sport: the Advantage By Contact (ABC) penalty - oh how I love these.


What is Advantage By Contact (ABC)?

Simply put, the ABC rule addresses the situation when a driver gains an advantage by making contact with another kart. It's an essential part of ensuring fairness and safety in the sport.


In go-kart racing, like in any other motorsport, contact is somewhat inevitable. However, it's the nature and outcome of that contact that matters. If a driver deliberately initiates contact or benefits from an unintentional bump, leading to improved position or faster lap time, they may be deemed to have gained an Advantage By Contact.


The ABC penalty often rears its head in three common situations:

  1. If a driver tries to overtake another kart but isn't at least halfway past it before contact happens.

  2. When a driver "loads" the kart they're trying to outpace. (Hold tight! We'll dive deeper into this one further along in the post.)

  3. Lastly, when a driver uses the kart ahead as their personal brake — a big no-no!


Why is the ABC rule important?

Go-karting is a non-contact sport where skill, precision, and strategy should be the primary factors determining success, not physical force or aggression. The ABC rule encourages clean, fair racing and discourages overly aggressive driving tactics that could lead to accidents, injury, or unfair outcomes.


The enforcement of the ABC penalty promotes a safer environment for all racers, ensuring that aggressive maneuvers do not go unchecked. By deterring drivers from bumping into competitors to gain an edge, the rule reinforces respect for each other's space on the track and enhances the overall racing experience.


How is the ABC penalty enforced?

When race officials notice a driver gaining an unfair advantage due to contact, they may issue an ABC penalty. Depending on the severity of the incident and the racing event's rules, this penalty could involve a time penalty, loss of positions, or even disqualification from the race.


The E-Board displays ABC with your kart number underneath and the Marshal on the Start/Finish line will display how many places you need to give back.


The following is how an ABC should be given back.


Let's dive into some clear examples of what counts as an ABC and what doesn't, which I often discuss with the new racers I guide through their go-karting journey.


While some contact may occur during regular racing situations, it's the duty of the Race Marshals and Race Director to determine whether an advantage has been gained. It can be a controversial call at times, as it often involves subjective judgment.


The Halfway Up Rule

When a driver is preparing for an overtaking maneuver going into a corner, they must ensure that their kart is at least halfway past the one in front before the lead driver initiates the turn.


In the instance of an overtaking attempt while rounding a corner, similar rules apply: the driver must get their kart halfway alongside the leading kart before they can legitimately contest for position.


However, during an overtaking maneuver on a straight stretch, the 'halfway' rule does not apply. Nevertheless, all drivers must aim to avoid contact, as any collisions, whether inadvertent or not, could potentially result in a penalty.


Loading

Loading is a term that refers to a situation where a driver maintains sustained contact with the kart ahead, effectively pushing it along. If a driver does this while approaching a braking point or navigating a corner, it can cause the leading driver to deviate from their racing line and create a gap. Should the following driver then exploit this gap to overtake the leading kart, an ABC penalty could be issued. Even if no overtaking occurs, the driver who was loading may still receive a contact warning.


It's worth noting that loading is allowed on straight stretches of the track, as it can be beneficial to both drivers. This practice, which does not usually result in a contact warning, is often referred to as 'bump drafting'.


Use Your Own Brakes, Not Me!

These incidents are often referred to as "Bump & Pass" and bear a resemblance to loading, but with a crucial difference: instead of maintaining continuous contact with the driver ahead, the offending driver strikes the other kart. This could involve either a front-to-back or a side-to-side impact. An ABC penalty may be issued in such circumstances if the contact is judged to have created an overtaking opportunity for the offending driver, or if it's determined that the driver could not have successfully navigated the corner without resorting to such contact.


Racing Room

Racing room is exactly what it sounds like — leaving enough space on the track for other drivers to compete for position. Once a driver manages to get their kart halfway past the one in front, both drivers must allow each other adequate racing room until one has fully surpassed the other. When we refer to racing room, we're speaking in terms of the boundaries of the track, denoted by the white lines at the circuit's edge. Essentially, it's about providing enough space for your competitor to keep their entire kart within these white lines.


Shortcuts

In addition to the scenarios mentioned above, the ABC rule can be issued even when a driver gains an advantage that doesn't involve contact. One such instance would be overtaking while off the circuit. While courses may be lined with kerbs or concrete, drivers are permitted to straddle the white boundary lines with two of their wheels. However, if all four wheels cross these lines during an overtaking maneuver, an ABC penalty may be issued. If no overtaking takes place, but all four wheels still cross the boundary, a track limits warning will be handed down.


Go, Go, Go - Oh Wait It Was Still Red

Anticipating the start, or "jumping the start," is not allowed. If a driver gains any positions by moving before the lights turn green, they will be penalised with an ABC. As part of the penalty, they will be required to revert to their original position before they can continue racing.


While the ABC rule might seem tough, it's an essential aspect of maintaining fairness, safety, and sportsmanship in the adrenaline-fueled world of go-kart racing. As racers, understanding and respecting the ABC penalty is crucial to our development and success in the sport.


Remember, the real thrill of go-karting lies not in pushing others off the track, but in mastering control over your kart, negotiating the trickiest turns, and outsmarting your opponents with strategic maneuvers. In the end, it's not just about the speed but also about the skill.


Happy and safe karting to all!


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